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I recently suggested that users looking to jump ship from Windows XP should consider a Mac instead Windows XP Refugees: Have You Considered A MacBook Air Yet? Windows XP Refugees: Have You Considered A MacBook Air Yet? Users of Windows XP (and, to a lesser extent, Windows Vista and 7) have an unhappy upgrade path ahead of them. Maybe it's time to ditch Windows entirely and pick up a MacBook Air instead. Read More . While I still think it’s a good idea, plenty of readers called me crazy; not everyone wants to learn to fly by jumping off a cliff. Those who want something more familiar can always turn to Windows 7 instead 4 Cheap Ways To Obtain A Legal Copy Of Windows 7 4 Cheap Ways To Obtain A Legal Copy Of Windows 7 It seems like Microsoft is hitting the nail with Windows only every other version. Windows 7 was one of them. Thing is, Microsoft doesn't sell Windows 7 anymore. Here are your options. Read More , and you can make it look almost identical to Windows XP with a few quick modifications.

Step 1: Download The Luna Theme

The default look that most Windows XP users are familiar with is the Luna theme. This includes the blue taskbar and the desktop background of grassy, rolling hills.

lunatheme

Windows 7 does not include this theme, but you can grab it from DeviantART, where a user named Satukoro has put together a popular re-creation. You can’t use the .zip file yet, though, so set it aside for now.

Step 2: Download Universal Theme Patcher

Now you have the Luna theme, but Windows 7 does not fully support third-party themes by default. To use it you need another program called Universal Theme Patcher. You can grab this from Theme Bin, TCP-Z and a few other websites. Many other websites hosting this utility try to install adware Keep Your PC Clean of Ads And Viruses With Lavasoft Ad-Aware+ Free [Windows] Keep Your PC Clean of Ads And Viruses With Lavasoft Ad-Aware+ Free [Windows] I continue suggesting to everyone that running Ad-Aware is a good idea. It doesn't necessarily have to be run exclusively as the only anti-virus software, but I've found that the Ad-Aware team has done a... Read More alongside it, so be careful what you click.

Step 3: Install Universal Theme Patcher

Opening the UTP zip file What’s The Best File Compression Method? MakeUseOf Tests Zip, RAR & More What’s The Best File Compression Method? MakeUseOf Tests Zip, RAR & More File compression is an important and common task users frequently ask of their computers. Reducing a file’s size makes it easier to email or place on a flash drive. It also reduces bandwidth usage and... Read More  will present you with two executables. One will have x86 in its file name, the other x64. Remember that x86 is for 32-bit Windows installations, while x64 is for 64-bit installations. Install whichever is appropriate for your PC.

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universalthemepatcher

The installer will present a window telling you what version of Windows you’re using and how many files need to be patched. Click Yes to continue.

Now you’ll see an interface with three sections. Each lists a file that must be patched. Click each patch button, and then restart your computer.

Step 4: Install The Theme Files

Now find the Luna theme .zip you downloaded and open it. Also open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes. Copy the files from the zip folder’s themes folder into the \Themes directory.

installlunatheme

Right-click any empty space on your desktop and open Personalize. In the window that opens you should see a new Installed Themes category, which includes Luna and Luna Aero. Pick Luna for that pure XP look.

Step 5: Adjust The Taskbar

That’s more like XP! But wait – you’re not done. There are some things that the theme won’t change, and we need to fix them, beginning with the taskbar.

Right-click the taskbar, click Properties, then change the following options in the window that opens.

Use small icons: Turn on

Taskbar buttons: Set to Never combine.

Notification area: Customize so that most icons are turned off, or adjust to your preference.

taskbar

Apply those changes and close the window. You’ll now see a taskbar that’s very similar to Windows XP. Some icons may linger because they’re pinned, but you can remove them by right-clicking the icon and then hitting Unpin this program from taskbar.

Step 6: Download And Install Classic Shell

To finish up the changes, you’ll once again have to move beyond the default options. Fortunately there’s a program called Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it's not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic... Read More that can change core interface features. Go to the Classic Shell website, download, and then install it. This should be simple; there’s no x64 version or adware to worry about.

Step 7: Change Start Menu Style To Luna

Open the Classic Shell Menu Settings application. When you do so, you’ll see the Start Menu Style tab selected. Begin by selecting the Classic with two columns option.

classicshellskin

Now go to the Skin tab. Click the drop-down option and selection Windows XP Luna. The skin applies automatically when you select it. You can play with a few other options, like turning user name on or off. I’ll leave those up to your preference.

Step 8: Change The Start Button

Now you’re close. You may notice that the Windows 7 start button remains and Classic Shell doesn’t provide an XP look-alike. Don’t worry. Check out the Classic Shell Forums and download the XP-style start buttons provided by the community. Save the image to your download folder or some other familiar location.

replacestartbutton

Now open the Start Button tab in the Classic Shell Menu Settings application, click the Custom radio  button option, and then click […] next to Button image. Navigate to where you saved the XP-style Start image and select it.

Step 9: Change The Look Of Windows Explorer

You’re almost done. Open the Classic Explorer Settings utility (it’s in the same folder as Classic Shell Menu Settings). In the resulting window you’ll see the Windows XP Classic option at the top. Select that.

windowsexplorer

Personally, I find this setting’s default buttons to be unrealistically large, so I suggest hitting the Show all settings checkbox. This will reveal a number of tabs, one of which is Toolbar Settings. Open that, then un-check the Big buttons box.

Now click OK to exit the utility. Close Windows Explorer 3 Advanced Tips & Tricks For Using Windows Explorer 3 Advanced Tips & Tricks For Using Windows Explorer Windows Explorer is the default Windows file manager. Last week I introduced you to 3 easy ways to improve Windows 7 Explorer by tweaking features and using it to its full potential. In this article,... Read More (if it’s already open) and then re-open it to see your changes.

Step 10: Enjoy Sweet Victory!

If you’ve followed these steps precisely, you’ll end up with an incarnation of Windows 7 that’s strikingly similar to Windows XP. You’ll find there’s surprisingly little compromise to this approach. The revised start menu, taskbar and Explorer should be smooth and stable.

You can further customize your experience by dinking around in Classic Shell. Your imagination is the limit, as the tool lets you change font sizes, spacing, button size, button type, and much more. These settings can be used to further emulate XP or to customize Windows to your liking.

Do you think Windows 7 looks good in XP’s skin? Let us know in the comments!

  1. nasko
    April 8, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    how can i turn it back to windows 7

  2. ipl 2015 live streaming
    April 7, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I just tried ZorinOS, and it has a “look changer” that lets you easily change from Windows 7 to XP looks. Plus it’s safe (no antivirus needed) and you don’t need all that stupid license stuff.

  3. Chris Koffend
    January 14, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Basically, I have come to hate Microsoft. It seems to me that everything they have tried to improve has just made everything worse. Everything takes longer to do, requires remembering the "new" steps to do them and just complicates things after using years of already working practices. I would (and actually did) try to convert to Mac, and found their system much more stable, much more intuitive but the Apple products simply break and don't last very long . . . add to the 300-400% premium one pays for them.

    1 Dead Mac desktop (19 month life)
    4 dead macbook (or pro) betteries useless/replaced, average life 18-24 months, replacement cost $120 each
    3 virtually dead macbooks (2 pros, 1 air)
    1 dead iPad (18 months)
    4 dead iPhones (average life 9-18 months)
    1,000,000 no longer working apple chargers, seeming life expectancy ranges from hours to days for iphones.
    Continuous battle with iTunes between devices, lost iTunes files with the never ending upgrades, etc. . .

    Microsoft Office 365 is horrible.
    MS Word new versions - horrible.
    MS Excel new versions - horrible.

    Some people just don't want to get stuck in the rain CLOUD. It is risky, unreliable, not secure and seemingly problematic. And the cloud is just making everything more expensive in the long term. I'd rather just buy software and install it on my hard drive and own it at one price for as long as I want - not have to keep paying month after month for years to come . . . which increases costs in the magnitude of hundreds of dollars.

    • Broke
      January 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Maybe it's time for you to try Linux. Ubuntu/Mint/Zorin should be fine for you.

    • Marino
      February 18, 2015 at 11:10 am

      I admire Linux as an OS, but frankly, all of the Linux software seems kind of a "technical preview" or a beta in comparison to sofware available on Windows. As an OS it is of top quality and stability. So yes, problem seems to be external in nature - a lack of professional software.

  4. Dorian
    November 8, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    SOOOOO COOOOL. i missed my xp theme

  5. Sonesh L
    July 12, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    This is really good i like the xp as it is one the fastest os ipl t20 india

  6. Howard B
    July 10, 2014 at 12:59 am

    The only things about Windows 7's theme/shell that annoy me are:
    1) Libraries...I don't need them, let me turn them off completely, and
    2) BACKSPACE in Windows Explorer goes "back and forth" instead of always "up." Classic Shell fixes most of #2, but does anyone know of a fool-proof method to get rid of the "Library" nonsense? (Registry edits haven't worked for me, btw.)

    • Tina S
      July 10, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Howard, you can disabled libraries, as explained towards the end of this article on how to make Windows 7 libraries work for you. Good luck! :)

    • Howard B
      July 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      @Tina S: As I mentioned, those registry hacks DIDN'T work for me.

    • Howard B
      July 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      @Tina S: Tried those registry hacks (I've visited AskVG for years), and none of them worked for me. I just tried "Remove Libraries from Explorer.reg" and "Disable Libraries.reg," and in both cases the Libraries group remained in the Explorer sidebar.

  7. Ian
    July 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Ok, but how do we get Windows 7 in the first place? Microsoft seem to be selling W8 only now.

    • Matt S
      July 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      You can still buy OEM copies of Windows 7 from Newegg and other online retailers.

  8. Ed
    July 8, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    YUCK!!! Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
    Next article:
    "How to make Windows 8 look like Windows 3.11"

  9. James V
    July 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I just tried ZorinOS, and it has a "look changer" that lets you easily change from Windows 7 to XP looks. Plus it's safe (no antivirus needed) and you don't need all that stupid license stuff.

  10. H
    July 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Win 7 still has several irritating differences that stop it "feeling" like XP.
    Slow green bar of death, stupid placement of show desktop, terrible file search.
    Win 8.1 with classic shell is a little better, though the photo app is dire and seems to have made some very simple things much more difficult, if not impossible.

    • JULIAN
      December 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

      YOU ARE RIGHT, I CANT FIND FILES LIKE IN XP, I DIDNT LIKE 7, THERE IS A XP THEME IN 7 AND CAN FIND FILES LIKE IN XP ?

  11. dragonmouth
    July 8, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I'd much rather make Win 7 WORK like XP. Better yet, I'll just continue to run XP. :-)

    • A41202813GMAIL
      July 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      Same Here.

      XP, FOREVER !

    • Hatsune Miku
      March 1, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      MS SAM FOR EVA :P

  12. michel
    July 8, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Please remind people to back up before altering system files. I know many people swear by using this method to alter the look of Windows, but in my experience, over years and various machines, it never fails to muck things up and make the system completely unstable.

  13. Ajinkya
    July 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

    wow it is really amazing I haven't heard bout that, I will surely try it once.
    Best Friendship Quotes

  14. Kavita
    July 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Classic Shell rocks. It's amazing how much modifications it does and is yet so stable and crash free. I have been running it since 2009 with no problems whatsoever.

  15. Beverley Prowse
    July 8, 2014 at 7:16 am

    This is actually awesome on another level at least when it comes to the GUI of XP. I recently got hit by a zero day bios rootkit. I was careless with my usb's and ended up at the point where I couldn't use any of my machines. A friend stepped in and lent me her old XP workhorse. I don't have the best eyesight in the world and normally use a 23" monitor (but on an all-in-one so I couldn't hook it up to her machine ... there's an all-your-eggs-in-one-basket lesson to be learned there) - so I had to use her 15" monitor. I was amazed at how much easier it was for me to see and read. Seriously, all that transparency doesn't always do people any favours. I will be trying this one out, thanks.

  16. Loeb
    July 8, 2014 at 2:33 am

    If only you could get x file search functionality in 7.

  17. ReadandShare
    July 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    My only gripe is that I couldn't run a lot of my old DVD programs on Win 7. But I am over it. Everything else, I prefer Win 7 over Win XP.

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